American Cuisine – Part 2

December 9, 2011 at 11:28 AM | Posted in baking, Food | 2 Comments
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20th century—21st century

Some corporate kitchens (for example, General Mills, Campbell’s, Kraft Foods) develop consumer recipes. One characteristic of American cooking is the fusion of multiple ethnic or regional approaches into completely new cooking styles. Asian cooking has played a particularly large role in American fusion cuisine.

Similarly, while some dishes that are typically considered American have their origins in other countries. American cooks and chefs have substantially altered these dishes over the years, to the degree that the dishes now enjoyed the world over are considered to be American. Hot dogs and hamburgers are both based on traditional German dishes, brought over to America by German immigrants to the United States, but in their modern popular form they can be reasonably considered American dishes.

Many companies in the American food industry develop new products requiring minimal preparation, such as frozen entrees. Many of these recipes have become very popular. For example, the General Mills Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, first published in 1950 and currently in its 10th edition, is commonly found in American homes.

Regional cuisine

Given the United States’ large size it has numerous regional variations. The United States’ regional cuisine is characterized by its extreme diversity and style with each region having its own distinctive cuisine.

New England

New England is a northeastern region of the United States, including the six states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The American Indians cuisine became part of the cookery style that the early colonists

New England clam chowder

brought with them. The style of New England cookery originated from its colonial roots, that is to say practical, frugal and willing to eat anything other than what they were used to from their British roots. Much of the cuisine started with one-pot cookery, which resulted in such dishes as succotash, chowder, baked beans, and others.

Lobster is an integral ingredient to the cuisine, indigenous to the shores of the region. Other shellfish of the coastal regions include little neck clams, sea scallops, blue mussels, oysters, soft shell clams and razor shell clams. Much of this shellfish contributes to New England tradition, the clambake. The clambake as known today is a colonial interpretation of an American Indian tradition.

The fruits of the region include the Vitis labrusca grapes used in grape juice made by companies such as Welch’s, along with jelly, Kosher wine by companies like Mogen David and Manischewitz along with other wineries that make higher quality wines. Apples from New England include the original varieties, Baldwin, Lady, Mother, Pomme Grise, Porter, Roxbury Russet, Wright, Sops of Wine, Peck’s Pleasant, Titus Pippin, Westfield-Seek-No-Further, and Duchess of Oldenburg. Cranberries are another fruit indigenous to the region.

Pacific & Hawaiian Cuisine – Hawaiian regional cuisine covers everything from wok-charred ahi tuna, opakapaka (snapper) with passionfruit, to Hawaiian island-raised lamb, beef and aquaculture products such as Molokai shrimp. Includes a broad variety of produce – most notably tomatoes, strawberries, mushrooms, sweet maui onions and tropical fruits such as papayas, mangoes, lilikoi (passionfruit) and lychee.

Midwest – Midwestern cuisine covers everything from barbecue to the Chicago-style hot dog.

The American South– The cuisine of the American South has been influenced by the many diverse inhabitants of the region, including

Fried chicken

Americans of European descent, Native Americans and African Americans.

Cuisine in the West – Cooking in the American West get its influence from Native American and Mexican cultures, and other European settlers into the part of the country. Common dishes vary depending on the area. For instance, the Northwest relies on local seafood, while in the South, Mexican flavors are extremely common.

Ethnic and immigrant influence

The demand for ethnic foods in the United States reflects the nation’s changing diversity as well as its development over time. According to the National Restaurant Association,

Restaurant industry sales are expected to reach a record high of $476 billion in 2005, an increase of 4.9 percent over 2004… Driven by consumer demand, the ethnic food market reached record sales in 2002, and has emerged as the fastest growing category in the food and beverage product sector, according to USBX Advisory Services. Minorities in the U.S. spend a combined $142 billion on food and by 2010, America’s ethnic population is expected to grow by 40 percent.

A movement began during the 1980s among popular leading chefs to reclaim America’s ethnic foods within its regional traditions, where these trends originated. One of the earliest was Paul Prudhomme, who in 1984 began the introduction of his influential cookbook, Paul Prodhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen, by describing the over 200 year history of Creole and Cajun cooking; he aims to “preserve and expand the Louisiana tradition.” Prodhomme’s success quickly inspired other chefs. Norman Van Aken embraced a Floridian type cuisine fused with many ethnic and globalized elements in his Feast of Sunlight cookbook in 1988. The movement finally gained fame around the world when California became swept up in the movement, then seemingly started to lead the trend itself, in, for example, the popular restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Examples of the Chez Panisse phenomenon, chefs who embraced a new globalized cuisine, were celebrity chefs like Jeremiah Tower and Wolfgang Puck, both former colleagues at the restaurant. Puck went on to describe his belief in contemporary, new style American cuisine in the introduction to The Wolfgang Puck Cookbook:

Another major breakthrough, whose originators were once thought to be crazy, is the mixing of ethnic cuisines. It is not at all uncommon to find raw fish listed next to tortillas on the same menu. Ethnic crossovers also occur when distinct elements meet in a single recipe. This country is, after all, a huge melting pot. Why should its cooking not illustrate the American transformation of diversity into unity?

Puck’s former colleague, Jeremiah Tower became synonymous with California Cuisine and the overall American culinary revolution. Meanwhile, the restaurant that inspired both Puck and Tower became a distinguished establishment, popularizing its so called “mantra” in its book by Paul Bertolli and owner Alice Waters, Chez Panisse Cooking, in 1988. Published well after the restaurants’ founding in 1971, this new cookbook from the restaurant seemed to perfect the idea and philosophy that had developed over the years. The book embraced America’s natural bounty, specifically that of California, while containing recipes that reflected Bertoli and Waters’ appreciation of both northern Italian and French style foods.

Early ethnic influences

While the earliest cuisine of the United States was influenced by indigenous American Indians, the cuisine of the thirteen colonies or the culture of the antebellum American South; the overall culture of the nation, its gastronomy and the growing culinary arts became ever more influenced by its changing ethnic mix and immigrant patterns from the 18th and 19th centuries unto the present. Some of the ethnic groups that continued to influence the cuisine were here in prior years; while others arrived more numerously during “The Great Transatlantic Migration (of 1870—1914) or other mass migrations.

Some of the ethnic influences could be found in the nation from after the American Civil War and into the History of United States continental expansion during most of the 19th century. Ethnic influences already in the nation at that time would include the following groups and their respective cuisines:

Select nationalities of Europe and the respective developments from early modern European cuisine of the colonial age:
British-Americans and on-going developments in New England cuisine, the national traditions founded in cuisine of the thirteen colonies and some aspects of other regional cuisine.
Spanish Americans and early modern Spanish cuisine, as well as Basque-Americans and Basque cuisine.
Early German-American or Pennsylvania Dutch and Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine
French Americans and their “New World” regional identities such as:
Acadian
Cajun and Cajun cuisine
Louisiana Creole and Louisiana Creole cuisine. Louisiana Creole (also called French Créole) refers to native born people of the New Orleans area who are descended from the Colonial French and/or Spanish settlers of Colonial French Louisiana, before it became part of the United States in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase.
The various ethnicities originating from early social factors of Race in the United States and the gastronomy and cuisines of the “New World,” Latin American cuisine and North American cuisine:
Indigenous American Indians in the United States (Indians) and American Indian cuisine
African-Americans and “Soul food.”
Cuisine of Puerto Rico
Mexican-Americans and Mexican-American cuisine; as well as related regional cuisines:
Tex-Mex (regional Texas and Mexican fusion)
Cal-Mex (regional California and Mexican fusion)
Some aspects of “Southwestern cuisine.”
Cuisine of New Mexico

Later ethnic and immigrant influence

Mass migrations of immigrants to the United States came in several waves. Historians identify several waves of migration to the United States: one from 1815–1860, in which some five million English, Irish, Germanic, Scandinavian, and others from northwestern Europe came to the United States; one from 1865–1890, in which some 10 million immigrants, also mainly from northwestern Europe, settled, and a third from 1890–1914, in which 15 million immigrants, mainly from central, eastern, and southern Europe (many Austrian, Hungarian, Turkish, Lithuanian, Russian, Jewish, Greek, Italian, and Romanian) settled in the United States.

Together with earlier arrivals to the United States (including the indigenous American Indians, Hispanic and Latino Americans, particularly in the West, Southwest, and Texas; African Americans who came to the United States in the Atlantic slave trade; and early colonial migrants from Britain, France, Germany, and elsewhere, these new waves of immigrants had a pro profound impact on national or regional cuisine.

“Italian, Mexican and Chinese (Cantonese) cuisines have indeed joined the mainstream. These three cuisines have become so ingrained in the American culture that they are no longer foreign to the American palate. According to the study, more than nine out of 10 consumers are familiar with and have tried these foods, and about half report eating them frequently. The research also indicates that Italian, Mexican and Chinese (Cantonese) have become so adapted to such an extent that “authenticity” is no longer a concern to customers.”

Contributions from these ethnic foods have become as common as traditional “American” fares such as hot dogs, hamburgers, beef steak, which are derived from German cuisine, (chicken-fried steak, for example, is a variation on German schnitzel), cherry pie, Coca-Cola, milkshakes, fried chicken (Fried chicken is of Scottish and African influence) and so on. Nowadays, Americans also have a ubiquitous consumption of foods like pizza and pasta, tacos and burritos to “General Tso’s chicken” and fortune cookies. Fascination with these and other ethnic foods may also vary with region.

Notable American chefs

American chefs have been influential both in the food industry and in popular culture. An important 19th Century American chef was Charles Ranhofer of Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City. American cooking has been exported around the world, both through the global expansion of restaurant chains such as T.G.I. Friday’s and McDonald’s and the efforts of individual restaurateurs such as Bob Payton, credited with bringing American-style pizza to the UK.[36]

The first generation of television chefs such as Robert Carrier and Julia Child tended to concentrate on cooking based primarily on

Fried fish and French fries in San Diego

European, especially French and Italian, cuisines. Only during the 1970s and 1980s did television chefs such as James Beard and Jeff Smith shift the focus towards home-grown cooking styles, particularly those of the different ethnic groups within the nation. Notable American restaurant chefs include Thomas Keller, Charlie Trotter, Grant Achatz, Alfred Portale, Paul Prudhomme, Paul Bertolli, Alice Waters, and celebrity chefs like Mario Batali, Alton Brown, Emeril Lagasse, Cat Cora, Michael Symon, Bobby Flay, Ina Garten, Todd English, and Paula Deen.

Regional chefs are emerging as localized celebrity chefs with growing broader appeal, such as Peter Merriman (Hawaii Regional Cuisine), Jerry Traunfeld, Alan Wong (Pacific Rim cuisine), Norman Van Aken (New World Cuisine – fusion Latin, Caribbean, Asian, African and American), and Mark Miller (American Southwest cuisine).

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